Be Safe–Examine Yourself For Suspicious ‘Spots’

By  //  October 9, 2012

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Healthcare Advice

(VIDEO By AcademyofDermatology)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases but  is the deadliest form of skin cancer, causing more than 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths, and over 9,000 deaths a year. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 76,000 new melanomas are diagnosed annually in the US making it the sixth most common cancer in the U.S. and the number one cancer in young adults aged 25-29.

Early detection of melanoma can significantly reduce both morbidity and mortality. The risk of dying from the disease, in fact, is directly related to the depth of the cancer, which is directly related to the amount of time it has been growing unnoticed. Therefore, earlier detection leads to thinner cancers and saves lives. Fortunately, unlike most other cancers, skin cancers present on the skin and are most often readily visible to the patient and the examiner. Patient skin self-examination, physician-directed total-body skin exams, and patient education are the keys to early detection.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) whose mission is to promote leadership in dermatology and excellence in patient care through education, research and advocacy, is an excellent source of information related to early detection of skin cancers.  Through the AAD’s SPOT Skin Cancer® program they are committed to increasing public understanding about skin cancer and motivate positive behavior change to reduce the incidence of and mortality from skin cancer.

SCHAUMBURG, ILLINOIS (Oct. 9, 2012)–- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and finding spots that could be cancerous is as simple as looking at your skin. Now a new video, “Skin Self-Exam: How to Do,” from the American Academy of Dermatology demonstrates how to check your skin and what to look for.

Skin Self-Exam: How to Do

“Checking your skin for skin cancer only requires your eyes and a mirror. Involving a partner adds another set of eyes, which is especially helpful when checking the back and other hard-to-see areas,” said Thomas E. Rohrer, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass. “Examining your skin only takes a few minutes, but it could save your life.”

When examining the skin, look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma and make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist if any moles exhibit these signs:

A–Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.

B–Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

C–Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown, or black, or with areas of white, red or blue.

D–Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

E–Evolving: A mole or spot on your skin that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

Commit To Frequent Skin Checks

To check your skin, look at the front and back of your body. When examining your own skin, stand in front of a mirror. Examine your skin by following these steps:

  1. Raise the arms and examine the right and left sides of the body.

    It is important to become familiar with your “spots,” and be sure to do a thorough periodic check that includes front, back and all the hard-to-see areas. (Shutterstock Image)
  2. Then bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper underarms and palms.
  3. Next, examine the back of your legs, spaces between your toes and your soles.
  4. Then, examine those hard-to see areas like your back, buttocks and the top of your head. Use a mirror to inspect the back of your neck and scalp, parting your hair for a better view.

“Current estimates show one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, so it’s important to be familiar with your skin, especially your moles,” said Dr. Rohrer. “Catching skin cancer early is key for successful treatment, so check your skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything suspicious.”

Tools and Resources Available On the AAD Website

The American Academy of Dermatology’s Body Mole Map helps people keep a record of moles that are growing, bleeding, itching or changing. The Body Mole Map is a resource of the Academy’s SPOT Skin Cancer® public awareness initiative. Visitors to the program’s website – – also can find stories of those affected by skin cancer and free downloadable materials to educate others in their community.

The “Skin Self-Exam: How to Do” video is posted to the Academy’s website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers relatable videos that demonstrate tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series will be posted to the Academy’s website and the YouTube channel each month.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 17,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology) or Twitter (@AADskin).